Iran’s Elections Could Complicate U.S. Plans to Renew the Nuclear Deal

June 11 2021

This week, after the International Atomic Energy Agency announced its suspicions that the Islamic Republic is hiding nuclear materials from its inspectors, the White House decided to lift some sanctions on Iranian oil, and still plans to forge ahead with nuclear negotiations. Meanwhile, Iran will hold its presidential elections next week. The exercise is not particularly democratic—the supreme leader approves the candidates in advance, and his minions have from time to time fixed the results—but neither is it entirely meaningless. While there are important differences among the candidates, not one can be dubbed a moderate, even by the standards of this brutal Islamist theocracy. Reuel Marc Gerecht explains why this matters:

With an Iranian “moderate” as president, President Biden surely would have athletically advanced again Barack Obama’s engagement arguments. To wit: the atomic accord reinforces Iranian softliners; tens of billions of dollars released to Tehran plus the promise of billions more in foreign investment attenuate the regime’s radicalism. Then-President Obama didn’t really mind Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei extorting the West, which is what the nuclear negotiations have been about, . . . since engagement would fundamentally change how the Islamic Republic acted. . . . With Ebrahim Raisi, Khamenei’s preferred candidate for president, this approach becomes harder to do with a straight face.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan will be uncomfortable with Raisi as president. . . . Though Raisi’s villainy has many hallmarks, his most notorious actions surround the 1988 slaughter of political prisoners, some of whom were children. . . . With Raisi as president, the White House will have a challenging time portraying a reanimated atomic accord as something other than an extortionate transaction with wicked Islamists who are blatant about their principal hatreds (America, Jews, Israel, and Western culture).

Yet even if Raisi’s election makes it harder for the White House to sell a renewed nuclear deal, Gerecht has little doubt that it will forge ahead. But, he writes, there remains “a big wild card” for the Biden administration:

Unless the clerical regime’s demands make it impossible for Biden to return to the [2015 nuclear deal]—that is, Khamenei won’t let Biden surrender—Israel is the country most likely to scotch the administration’s hopes. Israeli opposition to the nuclear deal is much deeper and broader today than it was in 2015, when most Israelis found it seriously wanting. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s in-your-face efforts to get Congress and the American people to array against it didn’t please a lot of Israelis at the time; it’s a good bet that today far fewer view those efforts negatively.

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More about: Ali Khamenei, Barack Obama, Iran nuclear program, Joseph Biden

 

Terror Returns to Israel

Nov. 28 2022

On Wednesday, a double bombing in Jerusalem left two dead, and many others injured—an attack the likes of which has not been seen since 2016. In a Jenin hospital, meanwhile, armed Palestinians removed an Israeli who had been injured in a car accident, reportedly murdering him in the process, and held his body hostage for two days. All this comes as a year that has seen numerous stabbings, shootings, and other terrorist attacks is drawing to a close. Yaakov Lappin comments:

Unlike the individual or small groups of terrorists who, acting on radical ideology and incitement to violence, picked up a gun, a knife, or embarked on a car-ramming attack, this time a better organized terrorist cell detonated two bombs—apparently by remote control—at bus stops in the capital. Police and the Shin Bet have exhausted their immediate physical searches, and the hunt for the perpetrators will now move to the intelligence front.

It is too soon to know who, or which organization, conducted the attack, but it is possible to note that in recent years, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) has taken a lead in remote-control-bombing terrorism. Last week, a car bomb that likely contained explosives detonated by remote control was discovered by the Israel Defense Forces in Samaria, after it caught fire prematurely. In August 2019, a PFLP cell detonated a remote-control bomb in Dolev, seventeen miles northwest of Jerusalem, killing a seventeen-year-old Israeli girl and seriously wounding her father and brother. Members of that terror cell were later arrested.

With the Palestinian Authority (PA) losing its grip in parts of Samaria to armed terror gangs, and the image of the PA at an all-time low among Palestinians, in no small part due to corruption, nepotism, and its violation of human rights . . . the current situation does not look promising.

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More about: Israeli Security, Jerusalem, Palestinian terror